Posted on: November 15, 2011 10:09 am
Edited on: November 15, 2011 6:12 pm
By Matt Moore
We never thought it would come this. We always knew it would come to this.
It became pretty apparent during the lockout that this was not two geniuses of chess eying each other over a board and carefully maneuvering their pieces in a symphony of strategy. No, this was drunken toddlers flinging chess pieces across the room while they swung their hands down. And each game the owners would win, they'd smash the board and scream "MOAR! MOAR WINS!" And each time the players would lose they'd cry and kick and smash the boar dand scream "No fair!" as if their daddy was going to come in and rescue them.
But surely they couldn't be stupid enough to let it come to this, right?
Of course they were stupid enough to let it come to this.
The owners backed the players into a corner. They bullied and shoved and strong-armed their way into getting nearly everything they could reasonably expect to win. Then they demanded more. They put the players in a terrible position, forced against the wall, no escape, with only one round in their chamber.
And the players summarily blew their own head off.
It is an opera, really. A dramatic interpretation of two clowns trying so hard to fight one another they knock themselves out. Only no one's laughing. It would be funny, if there weren't lost jobs, careers forever altered, and an outright disgust for both sides and their inability to corral their extremist contingents. At some point you have to tell the children in the room to sit down, shut up, and behave. Instead, both sides said "Oh, are you upset? Here, why don't you drive the car. No, we don't have insurance, why do you ask?"
The reason smart analysts like Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, Chris Sheridan, and other continued to say "no, the season won't be canceled, they'll get a deal" is they were so close, it wasn't worth blowing everything up over it. At least one side will come to their senses, was the thought. But it never happened. The players had the opportunity, knowing the deal was close enough to being swallowable, no matter how bad it tasted, to meet on it. So did they vote? No. Did they send the proposal back, approved, with a series of contingent amendments, to put the pressure back on the league and keep the process going? No. Did they ignore the threat and continue to say they were ready to negotiate? No. Any of those actions would have meant the players had a handle on themselves and understood the whole board, understood that they weren't going to see a better deal than this regardless of their action. But that's not what they did.
Instead, they opted for a disclaimer of interest. Not the decertification the union proposed, but this route. Faster, riskier, in pursuit of a summary judgment that is unlikely to come. They decided they'd had enough of this bully and it was time to fight back!
Except this isn't junior high. And they're still going to lose.
Maybe the owners really will fear the awesome might of a lawsuit which, in order to have any effectiveness, would take two to three years to finish through the appeals system and which most legal experts don't think they have a great chance of winning. A chance? Sure. A good one? Eeehh, future is hazy, check back later. Maybe the court really will side with them, and then have whateve result comes out last during the appeals process, and then win the appeal, setting the precedent in a case with far-reaching implications in a matter over professional sports. And if that happens, this will have turned out to have been... well, still a phenomenally stupid move, but they'll have treble damages to play with while the league burns to the ground.
But the more likely scenario is that they've blown up a season, cost themselves that money, blown their chance at BRI above 50 percent, blown their chance at avoiding a hard cap or flex cap and only managed to put more money in the hands of their lawyers. I'm not a legal expert, that's just the impression I've been given by them. There are ways out of this. But considering how complex they are and the two sides' inability to solve simple issues, it doesn't look good.
Don't be confused into thinking this is some sort of sole finger-pointing at the players. They didn't start this fire. They didn't lock themselves out. They didn't make outrageous demands. And they're right that they've made concession after concession. The owners will say they've made concessions, but their original position was never reasonable. Conceding insanity in order to justify advocating for foolishness doesn't make you any less nuts. The owners did this. The players just responded to short-sighted idiocy with more short-sighted idiocy.
And on, and on.
There was no vote yesterday, no consideration of the deal which a lot of rank-and-file players would have accepted. Those 30 reps didn't speak with with all the players they were meant to. And something happened to scare the living bejeezus out of them into voting "unanimously" to disclaim interest. Maybe it was Jeffrey Kessler, who seems to be getting an awful lot of publicity out of this whole ordeal he wouldn't have gotten if there was a deal. Maybe it was Billy Hunter, trying to steer the conversation away from this abject failure in leadership during these negotiations in order to reaffirm his position and save his salary once this ends. Maybe it was the agents, though that's unlikely given their reaction to yesterday's debacle.
But instead there was the grenade pin pulled in the alleyway knife fight, and now everybody dies. The union is dead, the lawyers are running the show, the league's not backing down because they don't have to, and the players aren't entirely sure of what they just did.
And as always, you, the fans, lose.
We never thought it would come to this.
We always knew it would come to this.
Posted on: November 14, 2011 10:30 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 12:09 pm
By Matt Moore
David Stern is not being subtle. After the Twitterview Sunday night, followed by their YouTube explanation of the proposal, the NBA posted a memo from David Stern to the players, with an attached copy of the proposal itself. Any player that got it had time to review the deal without it being couched in terms by the executive committee or their player rep. It's an interesting tactic of educating the players on what the actual terms of the deal are. Now, how those elements are interpreted, especially in the body of Stern's email, obviously is subject to the lens the league wants the deal to be viewed through. But it's direct and it puts the deal before the players plainly. Might want have wanted to do that on Friday versus hours before the meeting, but whatever. The complete text of Stern's memo:
MEMO TO: NBA PLAYERSThe league has done nothing but apply pressure and make threats all week, and now on Sunday night they're trying to simultaneously put some sugar on the deal to make it go down. One thing is clear: the league wants the players to accept this deal. This is more of an effort to get them to sign off than we've seen. It may be their last, as well.
Posted on: November 14, 2011 9:20 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 12:29 pm
by EOB Staff
It could be a quiet day of deliberation. It could be nothing but fireworks and chaos. From decertification to a player vote to a league response, we'll be watching. Check back here for updates today as the NBA potentially fall down around itself.
On the scene coverage from CBSSports.com's Ken BergerMonday 12:25 a.m.
NEW YORK -- A wise, level-headed agent has come up with a way for Billy Hunter to step out of the confines of the league's ultimatum and offer some things in order to get some things.
You know, negotiation. What a concept. I share the ideas here, because they're worth considering.
It seems that Hunter is not in a position to come out of today's meeting requesting more movement from the league without providing incentive. Given the way these negotiations have gone -- all in the direction of the owners -- that is far from fair. But it's the reality.
So Hunter can toss this back to the owners and attach the hot-button talking point of "competitive balance" to it. You want competiitive balance? The union should offer a proposal in which the distribution of draft picks is changed to give, say, the five worst teams in a given season an additional first-round pick.
If you're the Kings or the Timberwolves, would you rather have another $2.5 million or so in revenue-sharing money or tax receipts -- money that could be used to sign a veteran role player? Or would you rather have a first-round pick playing on a rookie salary, who could actually make you better and perhaps become a max player someday?
If the leaugue is really interested in competitive balance, this is one way to achieve it.
Riding shotgun with this proposal would be an offer to reduce the rookie scale even MORE than 12 percent. The level-headed agent suggested doubling that redution to 25 percent. By doing so, the escrow could return to the previous level of 8 percent, and the mechanism requiring additional withholding to account for an overage of the players' 50 percent share may not be necessary. In return, players would be eligible for their first post-rookie-deal contract after three years -- instead of being tied to the team that drafted them for five years. Players who develop into stars or valuable rotation players would be paid accordingly, and the stars who deserve it would have access to a max contract earlier.
With these two carrots, the union would then be in a position to insist that the league relax its stance on the so-called B-list issues, and also ask for movement on the A-list issue that is giving them the most trouble -- the sequencing mechanism requiring non-taxpayers to use their Bird exception first, and if it pushes them over the tax, forcing them to lose access to the full-mid-level.
Gotta start somewhere. Again, nobody listens to me or other voices of reason, but these are ideas worth sharing.Monday 11:45 a.m.
NEW YORK -- So here I am at the players' meeting, and not that it matters -- or that anyone will listen to me -- I have some issues with several deal points the players are apparently vehemently opposed to.
Let's hit them one at a time:
* The 12 percent reduction in rookie scale and minimum deals. The players are calling this an onerous rollback, but there has to be some mechanism to conform with a new 50 percent system, and this is what the two sides came up with -- mainly, in my opinion, because max contracts were off the table for reductions. Reducing the players' salaries from 57 percent of BRI to 50 percent represents a 12 percent reduction. The league already has agreed to phase in certain system elements, such as extend-and-trades and sign-and-trades for tax teams -- for the first two years. But the difference between 57 percent and 50 percent has to come from somewhere. And if max contracts are sacred and there will be no rollbacks of existing contracts, this is the only place left to reduce. My solution, as I've stated several times, would have been modest decreases in max contracts, which would've generated more of a revenue shift than a larger decrease in rookie contracts and minimums would. (This money also could be made up to star players by giving them a larger cut of licensing money.) Also, a 12 percent reduction in rookie wages would mean that the No. 1 overall pick would go down from $4.4 million to $3,.9 million in his rookie season. The 10-year veteran's minimum would go fro $1.4 million to $1.2 million. This is what they're fighting about, folks.
* The escrow. This is the amount withheld from players' paychecks to account for a possible overage in their overall guaranteed percentage. It was 8 percent previously, and a 10 percent withholding has been proposed for the new deal. However, given no rollback of existing contracts, the league has proposed an additional mechanism to account for total salaries exceeding 50 percent -- which is likely in the first two years with no rollbacks. The only alternatives to increasing the escrow to account for this would be 1) rollbacks, or 2) not agreeing to a 50-50 split of BRI.
Latest lockout buzzMonday 12:15 p.m.
Monday 12:00 p.m.
Posted on: November 13, 2011 11:04 pm
By Matt Moore
The NBA, pursuant to the mighty victory it envisions over the players this week, and certain that if they apply enough pressure the union will crack, not only held its Twitterview Sunday night, but released a video. As USA Today obtained a copy of the formal proposal from the league in regards to the deal on the table, the NBA followed up with a YouTube video which reviews the relevant talking points of the proposal and paints the offer in a "this is a good thing, really!" light.
This actually did a much better job than the Twitterview did in explaining the league's position and pointing out relevant elements. It's not going to sway the players, but it continues the league's assault through the media on the union's presumptive rejection of the deal. The league's message it's trying to send is clear: if there's no season, it's not our fault, we gave a fair offer.
Posted on: November 13, 2011 10:57 pm
By Matt Moore
There's been a quiet response to all the decertification talk this weekend, and in a fairly embarrassing Twitterview, the NBA presented it front and center Sunday night. The league has given the players a choice between a proposal they obviously find unacceptable, and even worse deal which will be the owners' new starting point for negotiations should the players reject the current offer. In response, the players have pushed even closer to decertification or potentially a disclaim of interest to dissolve the union and pursue antitrust lawsuits against the league. The league has answered every move the players have tried to make. So their response to the threat of decertification?
They will pursue voiding all existing contracts.
It's not as simple as just saying "your contracts are void," there's a legal process. It involves the suit currently filed by the league against the players which they filed months ago, and even if that didn't go through, they'd file again post-decertification in pursuit of the same goal. It's a complex, and messy situation that could take years to resolve if it came to that. But much like decertification, it works better as a threat than as a legitimate weapon.
If you're a max player, say, Carlos Boozer, and you just landed that last big contract to set you up guaranteed for the next four seasons, and the league says it can nullify that contract and set you back, how do you consider the proposal tomorrow as player reps meet in New York? If you're Joe Johnson, and you know there's no freaking way you get the deal you got in 2010 in a wide-open free agency, how do you respond? Every player earning more than he probably would in an open market would pause. Yes, you have your Derrick Rose's, your Blake Griffins, but there are far more players playing on longer-term contracts with considerable value than there are young players bucking for an open market.
And the threat works both ways for the owners. If you're Donald Sterling, how do you feel about the idea that Blake Griffin could be a free agent? Or Clay Bennett with Kevin Durant? How about Ted Leonsis and John Wall? But still, much like the CBA debate itself, it's not about the stars, it's about the rank and file guys, and those guys would be devasteated financially to lose their current contracts, especially if they also lose the ability to negotiate a guaranteed contract in the next agreement.
It's a hefty threat, the kind of nuclear weapon for the owners that decertification is for the players. Both sides continue to get closer to the button and there appears to be no cooler head to walk things back.
Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:18 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2011 3:02 pm
By Matt Moore
David Stern denied that the offer presented to the players on Thursday night was the league's "last, best offer" to Howard Beck of the New York Times. Beck attempted to follow up, because, well, if the players reject the offer and the league follows through with its threat to revert back to the so-called "cap reset" offer (47 percent BRI, a flex-cap, dragons, a dungeon, no cupcakes, etc.), they're not taking it, as Beck said, but Stern again dodged it. That was the point of this approach. The league's not threatening to cut off talks (they can't for fear of a lack-of-good-faith-barganing charge). This puts the onus on the players. "We're not giving you the worst offer, we're giving you a better offer than the worst offer. So you should take it, otherwise we'll only offer the worst offer." And they try and pass this off as benevolent.
But the reality is that this is their last, best offer. The players can't accept 47 percent with a flex-cap, not without a court fight. They'll take that deal when the battle is truly lost, as opposed to mostly lost, which it is now. Consider that the players are surrendering $3 billion in their position which was extremely close to what the owners have proposed in the last week, but it's the systemic changes that continue to hamper the odds of a deal. The players have given so much, and the league wants just a little more. And at some point it's either surrender or fight. Talking is over. Deal or no deal.
Decertification sounds great when pitched by an agent, I'm sure, but the realities are pretty dark for that course of action. It only really works as a leveraging tactic, considering that with the appeals process and the likely drag from the courts in proceedings as they would want this to be settled outside of their courtrooms and would encourage the parties to do just that, it would take years to complete. But if your options are that or lay down to be stepped on, a lot of players, especially stars with money in the bank, will opt for just that.
And so, like I said, this is the league's last, best offer. Or maybe its "last, not-nearly-as-sucky-as-what-comes-n
ext" offer. So what exactly does it entail and where do we go from here? Here's the rundown of where the sticking points of a deal stand Friday morning according to reports.
Everything in the proposal is based on a 50/50 revenue split which the players have finally conceded to if they feel the systemic changes are swallowable (indications are that they don't, but we'll get to that). It winds up costing the players close to $3 billion over the length of the deal compared to the prior deal which gave them 57 percent. That's a heck of a give-back, and yet still not enough for the owners.
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that the owners have "agreed to increase the mid-level exception for luxury tax-paying teams to three-year deals starting at $3 million. The exception, which was for two years starting at $2.5 million under the previous proposal, would be available every year for teams above the tax threshold." But there's a catch.
(T)he league's proposal would restrict teams from using a full mid-level exception -- four-year deals starting at $5 million -- if the signing itself pushed the team over the tax. Union negotiators want the mid-level restriction to kick in only if the team already is above the tax line before it uses the exception. The league's version is the one that is in the current proposal, according to a person who has seen it.via Stern offers 72-game season, few alternatives - CBSSports.com.
So they've settled how much the MLE will be, but not whether you have to be over the tax already to be barred from using the full version, or if you would be barred from using it if using it would put you into the tax. If this sounds like an obnoxiously small detail, it is, but it also affects a great deal of teams and in particular serves as a disincentive from teams spending more to win, which obviously the players don't want for multiple reasons.
Super-Tax and Repeater tax
The luxury tax is being revamped as the "super-tax," in order to serve as a spending deterrent, either for restriction of player movement, cost reduction, or competitive balance purposes, depending on what side you're on. The previous structure was a simple dollar-for-dollar tax. So if you were $5 million over the luxury tax threshold, you paid $5 million in luxury tax.
The league's latest offer proposes an increase of .50 cents on the dollar for the first $5 million over, then increasing penalties. Here's the breakdown, courtesy of Berger:
First $5 million in salary spent over luxury tax threshold: $1.50 tax on every dollar.
Second $5 million: $1.75 on every dollar.
Third $5 million: $2.50 on every dollar.
Fourth $5 million and above: $3.25 on every dollar.
It's not know at this time if the union has accepted this rate, though it's clear they're not happy with that idea (or any of these, really).
Then there's what's being called the "recidivist tax" or "repeater tax." The idea is that if a team spends above the luxury tax threshold in three out of a five-year span, it needs to be taxed additionally. The league has proposed the following structure:
First $5 million in salary spent over luxury tax threshold (including standard tax listed above): $2.50
Second $5 million: $2.75
Third $5 million: $3.50
Fourth $5 million: $4.25
That's an incredibly steep tax for repeat offenders. To put this in perspective, Storyteller's Contracts shares this information: in the past ten years, the Knicks, Lakers, Mavericks, Celtics, Cavaliers, Suns, and Pacers all paid the tax in at least three consecutive years. Due to no tax being collected in 2005, another five teams (the Timberwolves, the Blazers, the Nets, the Sixers and the Raptors) would have narrowly ducked it. That's a huge percentage of teams this would have impacted, and the corresponding impact on spending would have been significant.
That's why the union wants the following structure:
First $5 million: $2.00
Second $5 million: $2.00
Third $5 million: $3.50
Fourth $5 million: $3.50
That's a huge gap, considering in the last "stanchion" (as David Aldridge of NBATV described it Thursday night) would make for over a $9 million differential if the team spent all the way to $20 million over the tax threshold (the Lakers, for example, were $30 million over the threshold last season and would have been in the repeater tax. Close to $10 million from one team on just one level. That's a lot of dough.
So clearly this remains a big dividing point.
Berger reports that the league may have softened on the limitations on teams in the tax using the sign-and-trade, but there is still some sort of structure in the current offer that deals with it. For the players, this was a big issue, and it's surprising the league didn't just concede on this considering it has been used just three times in the past decade by teams in the tax. But then, the league isn't conceding something. What else is new?
ESPN.com reports that the owners have relented on the issue and that teams in the tax will be able to sign-and-trade players. That had to have been a concession for the big-market owners as well as playrs.
Player contract length
This issue has been agreed upon. Previous limits were five years without Bird rights and six years with. The new proposal which the players have agreed to is four years for non-Bird and five years with Bird. So it's a minor win for the players that they only lost a year, really.
Via SI.com, the league wants the escrow pushed to 10 percent, where it was five years ago, up from 8 percent last year and the last few prior years. The players want an 8-10 percent band.
The salary floor under the previous deal was set at 75 percent. The owners have agreed to raise it to 85 percent, according to multiple reports.
Length of CBA deal
The league has granted a concession to the players to allow them to opt-out of the proposed deal after the sixth year, which is notable for its coincidance with the end of the NBA television deals.
The amnesty clause, "stretch" exception," and length of time a team can match an offer in restricted free agency for a player have all been agreed to.
There's more to discuss, including Bird rights, age limit, etc. Some are huge issues, some are small. But the reality is that while the two sides appear very close together, in reality, the players consider themselves very far apart. Reports flooded in Thursday night and Friday morning about upset agents and players, livid with the deal, saying nothing was granted of substance. If that proves to be the mood of the entire union, it's unlikely a vote will even see the light of day, much less an acceptance of the deal. That means decertification, that means lawsuits, and that means the loss of the entire 2011-2012 season.
There's no more room to give, and it would appear the gap is still too wide.
Posted on: November 10, 2011 11:58 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2011 12:06 am
By Matt Moore
Following the eleven-hour meeting between the NBPA and NBA Thursday, we entered a new phase. The owners have presented an offer they won't describe as their "last, best offer," but with the threat of the "cap reset" offer looming as David Stern says the owners would revert to that proposal without acceptance of the current offer, it's effectively do or die time for the NBA season and the labor negotiations. And during his comments to the press afterwards, David Stern presented details on what the season would look like if the current deal is accepted by the union. From our recap of comments from both sides:
"I would not presume to project or predict what the union will do. I can hope, and my hope is that the events of next week will lead us to a 72-game schedule, starting on December 15."via Community - CBSSports.com.
This little nugget provides three very important elements.
The first is that this is a very concerted effort on the part of Stern to put the onus and pressure back on the union. By dropping this information into the presser, fans will only see the idea of losing just ten games after over a month and a half of lost time. They'll react strongly with the carrot in front of them of a 72-game season. It allows for most of a season, makes ticket holders and league-pass-watchers happy.
Second, it's a carrot for the players as well. They're paid a prorated amount this year depending on how many games are lost. Only losing ten games means quite a bit of money for the players. Those players that are thinking short-term, who are hurting for cash with paychecks lost, are likely to isolate that bit of information as important and it may push them towards voting to accept the deal, if a vote is held.
And finally, it's not a bad plan. It doesn't cram too many games into a limited space, especially with both the playoffs and Finals moved a week back. It gets the fans, players, teams most of the games, it controls the damage from the lockout. It coincides with the most games won in NBA history, and it's a symbol that the two sides are so close to a deal, it's painful.
It's up to the players to decide if it's time to end the fight and accept the loss they've taken in a brutal series of negotiations they were handicapped from the start in, or if the choice is to detonate the remaining 72-games on the table.
As always, we continue to wait.
Today is day 133 of the NBA Lockout.
Posted on: November 10, 2011 9:52 am
Edited on: November 11, 2011 12:19 am
Posted by EOB
Another eleven hours of meetings... another disappointing ending with both sides saying there is no reason to be optimistic. So glad they're productive in these things. You have to wonder just what they're doing in there. Do they just stare at each other for long periods of time? Do they keep getting distracted with the danish? Anyway, we'll keep you updated with the latest developments leading up to and during the meeting at noon today here.
For previous Buzz posts to see how this thing has unfolded over the past two days, click here and here.
Friday 12:04 a.m.
Thursday 10:49 p.m.